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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 14:29 GMT
Romanian Foreign Minister surprised at 'restrictions'
On the Politics Show, Sunday 29 October 2006, Jon Sopel interviewed Mihari-Razvan Ungureanu, the Romanian Foreign Minister.
Romania's Foreign Minister, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu
My problem here is how to make Romania as attractive as possible, as one, and to picture it for the British citizens as one the safest places throughout the European Union

This week, the Home Secretary, John Reid, announced that when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU, there will be big restrictions on the number of job seekers who will be able to come here.

Giving his first interview on his visit to this country, Romania's Foreign Minister, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu said the decision was a "bit of a surprise".

He refused to comment on the "stereotypical thinking" displayed by some British newspaper headlines.

Mr Ungureanu also reacted to claims by Unicef that there are "very sad stories about children who are living in an apartment, living in a house alone, two or three siblings, and just from time to time getting a phone call from their parents".

The Romanian Foreign Minister said "Hasn't that happened with Italy in the '50s and the '60s? Hasn't that happened with Spain in the '70s, in the '80s? Hasn't that happened with Greece in the early '60s? I think that this is mere, regular, normal phenomenon. We don't need to clout it with a sort of cultural explanation."

He also confirmed that political corruption in Romania "has always been a problem".

Interview transcript...

JON SOPEL: Romania's Foreign Minister is Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, he's just arrived in Britain and he's here with me in the studio for his first interview and welcome to Britain, welcome to the Politics Show.

UNGUREANU: Thank you.

JON SOPEL: Are you angry or merely disappointed that Romanian workers won't enjoy the same rights as Polish workers did?

UNGUREANU: Let me put it this way, it was a bit of a surprise for us because no one should ever imagine that Romanians were just like migrants, hoards of early middle ages come down and knock the British cities with their own expectations. - on the contrary.

It is indeed, the spill-over effects of the, of the waves of migrant workers that came, that entered the UK and Ireland in the first days after May 2004; we all know this. But, and what concerns Romania, the situation is completely different.

JON SOPEL: Are you saying the fears are groundless?

UNGUREANU: In my opinion are quite groundless. Let me put it this way because we're living through a paradox now. Romania, the, the presumptive migrant labourers, coming from Romania have already gone to the Southern flank of the European Union, that is to countries like Spain or Portugal or Italy and the number is somewhere, roughly 1.5 million people, which makes Romania now, subject to a deficit of labour force.

There are regions in Romania where the employment, the employment rate is almost positive so it makes quite of a disbalanced situation. This is why I say that the fears that Romanians may invade, put it in to inverted commas, to invade Britain and Ireland, are in my opinion, quite far from the truth itself.

JON SOPEL: So what do you feel about the way for example, some of our newspapers have covered it. I mean we can look at that headline in there from the Daily Express - Romania: Migrants, We Open The door. There's another one, Get Ready For The Romanian Invasion and we can still show you another one, On The Day Thirty Million Citizens Of Bulgaria and Romania Were Given The Right To Come To Britain, This Was The Queue for Visas in Bucharest.

UNGUREANU: That could be a picture from anywhere. The problem is not here in my opinion. And I won't comment on stereotypical thinking about what lays on the oriental borders of Europe. I know that for a lot of our citizens what happens in the orient... it's something quite foggy and without a clear shape. My problem here is how to make Romania as attractive as possible, as one, and to picture it for the British citizens as one the safest places throughout the European Union.

This is why I'm grateful to Paola for what she presented in what concerns the borders now, the border regime, since Romania will cover the oriental, part of the oriental border of the European Union, things are quite clear. It is a safe country, has changed a lot and there is no, certainly there will be no future, no bad surprises in the future.

JON SOPEL: And the other thing that Paula's film showed was that you're getting children being left behind because the draw of more money from richer countries in the European Union is such that people are already abandoning their children?

UNGUREANU: Hasn't that happened with Italy in the '50s and the '60s. Hasn't that happened with Spain in the '70s, in the '80s. Hasn't that happened with Greece in the early '60s. I think that this is mere, regular, normal phenomenon. We don't need to clout it with a sort of cultural explanation.

JON SOPEL: But does that make it acceptable?

UNGUREANU: No, certainly not. If you as my as a Minister of Foreign Affairs how do I feel, me personally, well I can tell you that I'm not disappointed, I don't want to put it in this note, but I say I'm a bit surprised and I know that the Romanian community here was actively against this stance, which served for political business but this is another thing.

JON SOPEL: We saw in the film also the efforts that are being made to tackle corruption. We heard from the Justice Minister, saying everyone is trying to dilute the legislation, the PMs in your assembly are trying to dilute the legislation to stamp out corruption.

UNGUREANU: Now look, it's not about everyone and it's not about the parliament as a whole. It is a democracy and whatever the government provides for consultation and for voting in the parliament, there is always the positive answer and there are nays as well.

May they be substantiated or not and she as a serious representative of the Romanian Executive, she did her part quite well and her job is to present our policy in what concerns anti-corruption measures we can take, to the parliament, and then it's up to the members of the parliament to decide but, but - and I let you know this, the parliament would certainly - and the majority of the parliament is supportive for our efforts; so I don't make it, I don't turn it in to a problem.

JON SOPEL: Okay, let me ask you a very simple question. How big a problem is corruption in your country?

UNGUREANU: It has always been a problem, let me put it this way. And in my opinion, what was wrong before January 2005 is that previous governments, I'm not speaking politics here, but previous governments have somehow tried to camouflage this situation, to sweep the problem under the carpet. We didn't do it, we just put it up, we transformed it in to a matter of serious administrative business.

The government concentrated on it and we tackled the corruption problem from all sorts of angles, not just from the judicial legal point of view - financially, culturally, administratively, we did it the best way possible. What I can tell you is that this country has changed so much that we won't tackle the subject again in two or three years from now.

JON SOPEL: Okay, Foreign Minister, thank you very much indeed for joining us here on the Politics Show.


Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of these transcripts are used.

NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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The Politics Show Sunday 29 October 2006 at 12.00 GMT on BBC One.

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